Another Quiet Day

17 February 2014 Quiet day

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. It diplomatic escort duty for Troutbridge, will they get to Fiskin Island? Priceless.

Better day Mary much improved potter around

Scrabbletoday Mary wins but gets just under 400, perhaps I will win tomorrow


André Schiffrin, who has died aged 78, made his name as a publisher of alternative and dissident voices, introducing American readers to the likes of Kafka, Camus, Gunter Grass and Sartre; but in 1990 he found himself in the centre of one of the biggest storms to hit publishing in the 20th century.

For nearly 30 years, as managing director of Pantheon, the publishing house co-founded by his father Jacques in 1942, Schiffrin had remained true to his father’s vision of bringing the best Old World writers to the New, and finding radical new voices — all under the benign stewardship of Random House, which bought the imprint in 1961.

Under his leadership, Pantheon published EP Thompson’s The Making Of The English Working Class and David Wyman’s The Abandonment Of The Jews. Schiffrin also championed the works of (among others) Eric Hobsbawm, Boris Pasternak, Marguerite Duras, George Kennan, Art Spiegelman, Michel Foucault, Gunnar Myrdal, Simone de Beauvoir, Noam Chomsky and Studs Terkel.

In financial terms Pantheon always hovered somewhere between the black and red sides of the balance sheet, sometimes falling behind by a million or two. Robert Bernstein, who served as president of Random House for much of Schiffrin’s time at Pantheon, recalled: “You always wished André made more, but it wasn’t a big deal. I think Random House gained more in prestige than in any money it lost.”

This mutually beneficial arrangement was challenged in 1990, however, when Random House’s owner Si Newhouse replaced Bernstein with a professional manager, Alberto Vitale.

According to Schiffrin, an early indication that all was not well came when he was led to understand that “Random management” felt that Pantheon was publishing too many Left-wing books. Perhaps these could be balanced by some Right-wing volumes? Vitale was said to have been angered by a subsequent editorial in Publishers Weekly which observed: “True publishers publish what they believe in… No true publisher should feel he has to offer a balance to his customers.”

In the end, though, it was the “bottom line”, rather than politics, that did for Schiffrin. Pantheon, Vitale told him, was losing $3 million a year (as Schiffrin’s friends observed, this equated to the advance paid by Random House for Nancy Reagan’s memoirs) and would have to make economies. Pantheon’s list should be cut from about 120 books to 40, and staff reduced by two-thirds.

Loftily protesting that corporate bean-counting was incompatible with the nurturing of great literature, Schiffrin resigned — and he was followed by all his senior editors and half his junior staff. In the days that followed, some 300 literary figures — including Kurt Vonnegut, Studs Terkel and Arno Meyer — picketed Random House in protest. Hundreds more writers signed a public petition, and an editorial in Publishers Weekly declared: “The news cannot help but appal anyone who believes in book publishing as ultimately something more than a plain act of commerce.”

Armed with his severance pay, Schiffrin raised several million dollars from philanthropic foundations and established a new non-profit imprint, The New Press, which he billed as an attempt to reassert the values of quality against commercialism in publishing.

The New Press is still in business today, publishing about 50 titles each year, but it symbolised both the advantages and limitations of the low-budget publisher. Schiffrin’s philosophy was that a good book would find its audience; but the imprint’s inability to offer high advances or guarantee publicity is said to have led some erstwhile Schiffrin supporters to take their custom elsewhere.

Buoyed by record-breaking results in 1990, when Random House’s revenues soared to nearly $1 billion, Vitale claimed to be unfazed by the row. Schiffrin, he said, had been “running a very sloppy shop, and publishing a lot of books that no one wanted to read”. But Schiffrin could at least claim a small victory when, to Si Newhouse’s chagrin, a young cartoonist whom Schiffrin had recently discovered left with him and later signed with HarperCollins. Matt Groening and The Simpsons have remained with HarperCollins ever since.

André Schiffrin was born in Paris on June 14 1935 . His father, a Russian émigré, was a translator and publisher who, with André Gide, created the famous Editions de La Pléiade series for Gallimard in the 1930s, while his mother, Simone, was described by André Malraux as the most beautiful woman in Paris.

André Schiffrin was five when the Nazis invaded, and in 1941 the family fled via Casablanca to New York, where Jacques co-founded Pantheon with Kafka’s German publisher Kurt Wolff, serving as editor and vice-president of production until his death from emphysema in 1950.

Having grown up in an environment peopled by a shifting cast of mostly Jewish socialist intellectuals, André read History at Yale, then spent two years at Clare College, Cambridge, where he became the first American to edit Granta and married Maria Elena de la Iglesia, whose father had been a Republican army officer in the Spanish Civil War.

In 1961 Schiffrin was invited to join Pantheon, which had just been bought by Random House. He arrived the following year and almost immediately edited his first major success, Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum. He became editor-in-chief in 1963 and managing director in 1969.

Schiffrin published a number of books about his life and about publishing, including the self-explanatory The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read (2011).

He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

André Schiffrin, born June 14 1935, died December 1 2013





A strong Ukip performance in the forthcoming European parliament elections will strengthen demands for a referendum on UK membership of the EU. Referendums are a dangerous instrument as shown by a mere 27% of the electorate carrying the Swiss vote on immigration quotas (Report, 10 February). A referendum in Scotland could end over 300 years of union within the UK. It is in this context that political elites must engage with the very real threat of a UK exit from the EU. The deep entrenchment within laws, protocols and partnerships across political, economic, social and environmental spheres is such that leaving the union would generate massive uncertainties and unknown costs that are not adequately understood. There is even less coherence on Britain outside the EU than there is from the SNP on Scottish governance post-independence. A possible UK exit ought to provoke a proper debate about the consequences. The government and opposition should lead this debate but instead there is virtual silence.

The Labour party seems pathologically incapable of mentioning Europe, perhaps cowed by focus groups affirming that Europe is not a priority, and by widespread Euroscepticism. By failing to promote the achievements of the EU and acquiescing in the distorted evidence and downright untruths on issues such as benefit tourism and the costs of membership, Labour is neglecting its democratic responsibilities. It is time for the party to join with trade union and business interests in affirming the advantages of membership. Labour must also present an agenda to repair the damage inflicted on the union by the Blair and Brown governments’ craven subservience to neoliberal orthodoxy and financial and banking interests, including tax havens, which has undermined the social Europe ideal on which the EU was established.
Simon Sweeney
University of York


Martin Kettle (Comment, 13 February) gives a remarkably benign view of Stanley Baldwin, who for my parents’ generation (born 1916) was actually a divisive and complacent figure. His second government swept to power in 1924 on the back of the vile “Zinoniev letter” fabrication, proceeded to provoke the general strike through the catastrophic restoration of the pound to the prewar gold standard. His indifference to mass unemployment, never dipping below 1 million from 1920 to 1940, culminated in cuts to the dole under the so-called national government – Tory in all but name – of 1931-5 and the 1936 Jarrow march, which Baldwin refused to meet. His government crushed the wish of the French popular front government to support the lawful republican government in the Spanish civil war in 1936 and allowed Franco to proceed with what Paul Preston described as the Spanish holocaust. The Anglo-German naval treaty of 1935 and failure to react to the militarisation of the Rhineland combined with weak sanctions against Mussolini after the invasion of Abyssinia gave a clear signal to the dictators that Britain would not fight. When war came, police had to mount a guard on his retirement home in Bewdley to prevent a lynch mob attacking him. Yes, he won big majorities for the Tories three times in 1924, 1931 and 1935, successfully using the same “national interest” language as Cameron in 2010 to convince the electorate of the need for coalition austerity, but Cameron should consider why there has never been a prime minister whose stock fell faster and deeper after he left office than the smug Baldwin.
Tom Brown

In your leader on Italy (Young man in a hurry, 15 February), you apply your principles selectively. You object that Matteo Renzi is becoming prime minister “by less than democratic steps”. But you do not criticise his predecessor, Enrico Letta, for obtaining the job by the same route. Nor Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano for approving Renzi’s tactics. Nor the political system for allowing them. You will the end, but quibble about the means. You recognise that “Italy desperately needs the reforms that Mr Renzi envisages”. You should be grateful that he is trying to reform the system from within, rather than by mobilising mobs on the streets. Acknowledge and support his efforts with good grace, rather than with finger-wagging.
Jack Winkler

• It is surprising to see the Royal College of GPs concerned about data sharing (Report, 13 February). In return for free or subsidised computers, GPs were sharing data with drug data companies well before hospitals had data worth sharing.
Peter West

• Page three of Saturday’s Guardian (15 February) was a full-page article on the sidelining of women. Opposite it, on page 2 was a large photograph of three men and a woman. The men were named (Clegg, Choudhrie and son) but not the woman. Joined-up thinking?
John Somers
Honiton, Devon

• Sea spray on our bedroom windows this morning (tasted it to make sure) – 70 miles from the nearest coast.
Angela Bogle
Bakewell, Derbyshire



I strongly disagree with the suggestion that William Roache and Dave Lee Travis have been properly brought to trial (Comment, 14 February). Keir Starmer is betraying whatever legal education he received by his partisan views. Limitation periods under the law of England and Wales are laid out by the Limitation Act 1980, and are the periods of time during which an individual can bring a private (civil) claim, or else lose the right to bring it. The reasoning behind this, which has its origins in Roman law, is that firstly someone with a good cause of action should pursue it with reasonable diligence; secondly that a defendant might have lost evidence to disprove a stale claim; and thirdly that long-dormant claims have more “cruelty than justice” in them (Halsbury’s Laws of England, 4th edition). So English law says that it is contrary to “public policy” for people to be perpetually exposed to litigation for allegedly wrongful acts. As time passes, witnesses’ memories may fade, or become distorted, and documentary evidence available to do justice to the case is less likely to be available, or in certain cases even exist. It is recognised this may prevent justice being done, and for a great many years it has been accepted that it is in the public interest that claims become barred by statute after a certain period of time has elapsed – usually six years.

Unfortunately, and at present, this applies only to civil claims, and in England and Wales, and not to criminal cases despite the fact that many countries, including the US and Canada, which have similar legal systems, do apply limitations to criminal cases. The cases of William Roache and Dave Lee Travis surely show that trials of “stale” allegations made about events decades ago indeed have more cruelty than justice. Is it not time for parliament to add appropriate provisions to the Limitation Act? I would suggest that there should be no prosecution unless the offence has been reported to the police within six years of it allegedly taking place, or in the case of offences against minors, within six years of their attaining the age of majority, ie by their 24th birthday.
Neil Jopson
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

• Keir Starmer’s response to the acquittal of Dave Lee Travis is simply inadequate. False allegations of sexual offences cause both the innocent victim and their family untold and lasting hurt, emotional, financial and physical. Worse, every false allegation contributes to discrediting women who have suffered real attacks. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service must reconsider their actions in the interests of all women who have been assaulted, subjects of false allegations and all their families.
Fiona Flint
Banbury, Oxfordshire

• An investigation two years ago by the CPS and Home Office concluded that false allegations of rape were extremely unusual: of every 161 rape prosecutions, there was just one related to a false allegation. I am very surprised to see the Guardian swallowing these figures whole and regurgitating them unquestioned (Editorial, 14 February). Out of 5,651 prosecutions for rape, there were 35 prosecutions for perverting the course of justice or wasting police time – that’s where the “1 in 161” comes from. But for the CPS to bring a prosecution there has to be “a reasonable prospect of conviction”. That’s why many rapes that really did happen are not prosecuted, and for the same reason many cases of false allegation never come to court. Some false accusations of rape lead to a wrongful conviction. The accusers in these cases will never appear in the Home Office statistics. The figure of 1 in 161 applies only to rape, not to all the other charges of less serious forms of sexual assault, where false allegations are even easier to make.

The source of the figures also needs to be taken into account. The Home Office does, after all, want us to believe that our system delivers justice, and as far as I know, ministers have not pledged to increase the rate of conviction for false allegations, whereas they have for rape. So police forces will get brownie points for a successful rape conviction but not for a charge of perverting the course of justice. The real figure for false allegations is undoubtedly much higher than 1 in 161. How much higher? I don’t know, and neither do you, but it would be good to see one of your investigative journalists looking into it.
Richard Bunce
Fareham, Hampshire






As the London Summit on Illegal Wildlife Trade closed, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was pleased to see positive measures pledged to provide greater protection for elephants, rhinos, tigers and other threatened species.

However, more must be done to ensure lasting protection for our wildlife for future generations.Shockingly, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory, with between 25,000 and 50,000 slaughtered each year so their tusks can be used to make trinkets that nobody needs.

We welcomed the UK’s leadership in bringing together around 50 key countries at such a crucial time to fight wildlife crime and were pleased to see a commitment to reducing consumer demand for illegal wildlife products – ensuring that there are strong laws in place that are effectively enforced, and that there are sustainable alternative livelihoods so that people are not forced into poaching animals out of desperation.

However, while we broadly welcome the contents of the declaration, we are disappointed that it does not explicitly commit to eliminating domestic markets for ivory, rhino horn and tiger products. These markets confuse consumers, make enforcement difficult and provide criminals with an opportunity to launder their illegal products.

Wildlife crime has been widely acknowledged as being a serious threat to wildlife, but also has implications for international security.

In recent weeks IFAW launched an ivory surrender in the UK, asking members of the public to donate their unwanted ivory so it could be destroyed. We would like to thank The Independent newspaper and its readers who supported this campaign and reacted positively by donating dozens of ivory items, from carvings and jewellery to whole tusks.

In total almost 100 kilos was donated or pledged and ahead of the London summit, these items were crushed, ensuring they will not find their way into the marketplace and also sending a strong message that the UK public want to see elephants protected from the ivory trade.

Robbie Marsland

UK Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare

London, SE1

Feeding a healthy giraffe, such as Marius, to the lions could be an unfortunate precedent. If risk of inbreeding is to be an excuse to cull species, the human race should watch out, especially those in high places who have notoriously tended to select their mates from small gene pools.

David Hindmarsh


When a storm brings power lines down

We knew it was only a matter of time. Sure enough, last night we lost power – no heating, no hot water, no cooking, no business. This time it was only off for 11 hours. Lucky, aren’t we, in comparison with the tens of thousands of others, who are left bereft for days, or even weeks?

We are second-class citizens because we live outside the town and city. For us the rules are different: we pay the same for our electricity, but it’s delivered via cables strung on poles – hideously ugly, as well as inadequate against wind.

It is way past time that our government acknowledged that electricity is no longer a luxury, but a prerequisite for both business and a civilised life. Regulations that require underground service to all new development, and urban homes and businesses (often now one and the same address), must be extended to benefit everyone. Same charge, same service.

Ian East

Islip, Oxfordshire

People who live by the side of a river, on the coast, on flood plains or on reclaimed marshland (such as the Somerset Levels) are playing a percentage game. They are gambling that the once-in-a-couple-of-centuries series of storms won’t happen while they live their idyllic waterside existence.

Most of the time, because the percentage chance of it happening is so small, they get away with it. It is hypocritical of them to complain if the Environment Agency and the Government plays the same percentage game.

How much would the public be complaining if billions was spend on flood defences, when nothing is likely to happen for decades or centuries? The railway to the South West has been there since Brunel built it. The Thames hasn’t flooded this high since long before 1947. How many billions would you like us to spend now to make sure that these things are still safe in the year 2235?

Paul Harper

London E15

Unions and Labour: dream and nightmare

Owen Jones (13 February) in his dreams believes that if the unions had been dictating Labour Party policy there would have been no Iraq war, and no scrapping of the 10p tax band; there would have been proper regulation of the City and public ownership of the railways. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “If that is what Owen Jones believes then he is an ass, and I can only hope that he does not learn by experience.”

The last time the unions dictated Labour Party policy, in the Sixties and Seventies, the country was brought to its knees. Their inflated wage demands in every manufacturing sector simply made them uncompetitive. This set the scene for the de-industrialisation of swathes of the UK, and eventually made thousands hostage to the welfare system.

Simply swapping one set of vested interests for another will not create a more fair society.

G Barlow


Student invasion of independent Scotland

If Scotland left the United Kingdom, and managed to stay in or rejoin the European Union, the rest of Britain would then have the same legal status as any other EU member, so our nationals, like the nationals of all other EU members, would be entitled to free tuition at Scotland’s universities.

But the Scottish government in its recent publication Scotland’s Future says that it would “maintain the status quo by continuing our current policy of charging fees to students from the rest of the UK to study at Scottish higher education institutions”.

However, discrimination against nationals of other EU member states has been found to be in breach of EU law. Many senior academics from Scotland’s universities, including professors of European Union law, have therefore questioned the legality of the SNP’s proposed policy.

If the SNP policy were banned as illegal, Scotland’s universities “would be swamped by essentially fees refugees”, as Scottish Education Secretary, Mike Russell MSP, has acknowledged.

The loss of funding from students based elsewhere in Britain would, according to the SNP’s own figures, cut about £150m from Scottish universities’ income. This would threaten the affordability of free tuition for Scottish students. This brain drain from the rest of Britain would also cut the incomes of the universities in the rest of Britain,

Will Podmore

London e12

Tory party interns ‘employed’ for free

The Conservative Party’s claim that its efforts to avoid having to pay interns  (report, 14 February) is simply “trying to be a responsible employer” is ludicrous.

Anybody in the “employment” of an “employer” would, reasonably, expect to be in receipt of wages for services rendered.

Those who provide service without recompense are either volunteers or slaves. Given that the Tories abandoned support for slavery some time ago, we can assume any interns are volunteering their services to the party. Therefore, the Conservative Party cannot claim to be employing them, and any claim to being a “responsible employer” is pure cant.

A “responsible employer” would show care for its employees and ensure that they receive a fair wage capable of supporting a decent standard of living. But then the Tory ethos, from the aristocracy and landed gentry through to today’s stockbroking, City elite has always been to build wealth and power off the backs of other people’s work at the lowest cost possible.

Barry Richards


Monster at the wheel

It’s always good to have your prejudices confirmed. Two days ago a car overtook me recklessly in a 20mph zone (I was doing 20mph). I caught it up at the next traffic lights, and was keen to see what kind of person would drive so dangerously. The driver was smoking, and his passenger was a child. I expect he was texting as well and sitting on his seat belt.

David Ridge

London N19

Talking to babies: shock findings

I am curious as to how much it cost Professor Anne Fernald to come to the conclusion that talking to babies and young children boosts their educational performance (report, 15 February). I could have saved her a lot of money if she had asked me, and I’m an electrician.

David Carr

Houghton-le-Spring,  Tyne and Wear







Sir, George Osborne’s demand that England keeps sole use of our joint currency is bound to inflame the otherwise civilised debate about the Scottish referendum (Feb 14). It will persuade many voters that perhaps Alex Salmond’s criticisms of the present relationship are probably correct, and so is likely to ensure that Scotland votes Yes to independence; and now with the strong support of the vast Scottish diaspora.

If England insists on the currency, it will have to accept the whole of the vast national debt this government is piling up. The entire income from the oil, gas and fishing assets in Scottish territorial waters will flow to Edinburgh. The Bank of Scotland will retrieve all its assets and repudiate the vast losses from the Halifax Building Society, which could make Lloyds Bank unsellable.

Charles Ross

Devizes, Wilts

Sirs, It is ironic that Mr Salmond has described the three main political parties’ view that an independent Scotland would not be allowed to share the pound as “bluff, bluster and bullying”. No three words could better describe his campaign for independence. He has asserted as fact his own erroneous opinions about the currency, the EU, Nato, oil, the discriminatory charging of university fees to students from England, etc, and has ignored the views of experts. He has attempted to rig the electorate by lowering the voting age to 16 and in high-handed fashion has dismissed the idea that Scots who are, often temporarily, living outside Scotland, should have a say in the matter, not to mention those in the rest of the UK.

Michael Osborne


Sir, There is nothing to stop an independent Scotland from issuing its own Scottish pound and maintaining it at parity with the pound sterling in a similar way to Gibraltar or the Falkland Islands. The residual UK government would not have any obligations to the new Scottish currency and the Scots could choose to stop supporting parity at any time.

Richard Tweed


Sir, The possibility that Scotland could be denied the pound sterling after independence should be kicked into touch. Since the union of the parliaments the Bank of England has really been the Bank of Great Britain, in which the Scots have a rightful share. Shame on politicians conspiring to deny independent Scots the use of sterling.

Alan Calder

Holmfirth, Yorkshire

Sir, In the event that Scotland
votes Yes, the independent nation should proudly grasp this opportunity to re-introduce the Groat.

Stephen Porter

London NW6

Sir, If the Scots vote for independence and they cannot use the pound and do not want to join the Euro they could create their own currency.

The Scollar would lend itself beautifully to banknotes representing all the massive contributions made by Scottish engineers, scientists and authors.

Terry Riley

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir, My money is on the “dram” or perhaps the “muckle” (made up of 1,314 mickles).


The Chancellor should use the forthcoming Budget to improve the compensation scheme for energy intensive industries

Sir, We are writing on behalf of companies that underpin critical parts of the UK’s economy, employing tens of thousands of people directly and several times that number in their supply chains. They contribute to the UK’s knowledge economy in terms of skills and innovation and to the nation’s trade balance.

Despite big efficiency gains, making products like chemicals, steel and industrial gases is energy intensive. Electricity prices in the UK for intensive consumers are 50 per cent higher than in other parts of Europe, partly because we are subsidising renewables. We support the fight against climate change, but we will all have failed if this is achieved at the expense of driving these industries abroad. Products which are essential to modern life would be made instead by less efficient producers overseas leading to higher global emissions. This makes no sense. The current compensations address only a small part of those costs.

The cost of subsidising renewables through the Renewables Obligation is by far the largest burden. With the small-scale Feed-In Tariffs, it pushes up electricity prices by more than a fifth — costs not incurred by many competitors in Europe and elsewhere.

We therefore urge the Chancellor to use the forthcoming Budget to address this problem by improving the compensation scheme for energy intensive industries.

Jon Bolton, UK Steel & Tata Steel Europe; Ken Hayes, GrowHow UK; Graham Honeyman, Sheffield Forgemasters International; Jim Mercer, BOC Gases; Frances O’Grady, TUC; Luis Sanz, Celsa Steel UK


The reduction of young offenders in the criminal justice system has been linked by some to the reduction of lead in the environment

Sir, If Ross Clark (Thunderer, Feb 14) is looking for further reasons why the murder rate is falling he might want to consider the link with the introduction of lead-free fuel in the late 1980’s. It has been suggested that lead has been linked to aggressive behaviour and while I am not an expert in this area, it is interesting to see the reduction of young offenders in the criminal justice system has been linked by some to the reduction of lead in the environment.

John Berry

(Retired prison governor)

Countesthorpe, Leics


Had prudence been applied to loan loss provisioning in the banking sector before the crisis, the sector would be in a much healthier position

Sir, You report (Feb 12) that a survey of UK Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) says accounting rules should continue to deliver results that are neutral not prudent. MEPs are accused of bullying the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) to reintroduce prudence or lose EU funding.

The accounting concept of prudence means that: assets are not overstated; liabilities are not understated; profits are not booked until earned; losses are booked as soon as they are known. Had prudence been applied to loan loss provisioning and accounting for financial instruments in the banking sector before and during the crisis, the sector would be in a much healthier position than it is now, and the rules have still not changed. The MEPs are acting in the public interest to get some much needed action. It is the IASB and the CFA who should be criticised for failing to accept the blinding obvious.

Stella Fearnley

Professor in Accounting

Bournemouth University


In the 1970s trainees were shown chest x-ray films of women who had contracted lung disease from washing overalls belonging to their husbands

Sir. I was interested to read of Nicola Maier’s success for her female client who unfortunately contracted mesothelioma from contact with her husband’s clothes (Feb 6). When I was training as a radiologist in the 1970s the teaching consultants often had chest x-ray films of women who had contracted an industrial lung disease from washing overalls belonging to their husbands. Others had worked in factories in the war and had been exposed to substances such as silica which led to silicosis and lung fibrosis.

For us as novices sorting the diagnostic puzzle of “male” diseases in female patients was an important lesson.

G. Lamb






SIR – The Government has recently announced proposals to introduce baseline testing for four-year-olds and increase collaboration between childminders and school-based nurseries. As representatives of the childcare sector, we are sceptical of these proposals.

Liz Truss, the education minister, has stated that childminder agencies will make working in the profession easier. We are concerned these agencies will not help childminders to improve their expertise. The Government should focus on improving the quality of training, which will have a positive, long-term influence on children’s learning, well-being and development.

It’s encouraging that Ofsted will have a role in assessing the performance of childminder agencies but we need to see detailed plans of how individual childminders will be assessed.

Liz Bayram
Chief Executive, PACEY
Neil Leitch
Chief Executive, Pre-School Learning Alliance.
Penny Webb
Ofsted Registered Childminder
Laura Henry
Bea Heath
Director, Independent Childminders Social Enterprise (ICM-SE)
Lynda de Wolf
Executive Director, UKCMA

The Speaker’s role

SIR – Matthew d’Ancona wrote that “The Cameroons are furious with the Speaker, John Bercow, for (in their view) defying all Parliamentary precedent and the guidance of Erskine May to call a vote on Dominic Raab’s amendment to the Immigration Bill”. If they really do think this they are wrong both on Erskine May and on precedent.

Erskine May says “the Speaker has the power to select the amendments which may be proposed on consideration of a motion or a bill in the House (Standing Order number 32)”. This Standing Order does not limit the Speaker’s discretion and simply says “the Speaker shall have power to select the amendments, new clauses or new schedules to be proposed thereto”.

As regards precedent, there is the longstanding expectation that the Speaker will facilitate the desire of the House to debate matters of importance. Philip Laundy, in his book The Office of Speaker (1964), says, in relation to the selection of amendments, that although it “is normally bound to favour one side of the House against the other, in selecting amendments the Speaker is better able to take into account the feeling in all parts of the House, and to give precedence to those amendments which represent the leading sections of opinion”.

It therefore seems to me that the Speaker not only behaved correctly but in the fine tradition of his office.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP (Con)
London SW1

Scottish debt default

SIR – It is unrealistic for the Scottish National Party to maintain that an independent Scotland could default on its UK debt share obligations in the event of no sterling currency union. If it attempted this, all confidence in the international financial markets would evaporate and Scotland would be unable to fund its growing budget deficits at economic rates, especially given the recent history of reckless nations’ financial mismanagement.

Paul Duncanson
London W1

European money law

SIR – As one of the MEPs steering EU anti-money laundering legislation through the European Parliament, I would like to clarify concerns about how the law could affect trusts.

We do not intend to require full transparency for trusts. Instead, we are seeking to ensure that trusts do not provide a loophole for criminals. Only those arrangements deemed high risk would have to be made public in some form. The average person should not be affected. We will continue to seek a directive that is unintrusive yet effective in preventing illegal funds from entering Britain and harming our economy.

Timothy Kirkhope MEP (Con)
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

It’s only a game

SIR – I was intrigued by this extract from the resignation letter of Mark Harper, the immigration minister: “I have always believed that politics is a team game not an individual sport…” And there we all were, believing it was a serious business.

Albert Brooks
Woking, Surrey

Drug denied to men with prostate cancer

SIR – A breakthrough drug which could give men with advanced prostate cancer extra time to live is going to be snatched away from them based on a technicality. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) will recommend that enzalutamide – one of precious few treatments for cancer that has progressed after chemotherapy – will only be made available to those men who have not previously had another common drug, abiraterone.

Only months ago, Nice gave hope to men with advanced prostate cancer by initially recommending enzalutamide for use without this stipulation, a decision sensibly adopted in Scotland by the Scottish Medicines Consortium. Since Nice’s recent announcement, we’ve heard heartbreaking stories of men who have been waiting for enzalutamide to become available as a last hope to prolong their life, only to have this hope taken away from them.

This illogical decision has been made with a lack of transparency and puts a huge burden on clinicians to choose one treatment over the other without knowing which would most benefit the man. Nice has a duty to those men to revert to its initial recommendation and make enzalutamide available on the NHS to all who need it.

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive
Prostate Cancer UK
Professor Alan Ashworth
Chief Executive, The Institute of Cancer Research, London
Jonathan Waxman
Professor of Oncology, Imperial College London
Professor Roger Kirby
Urologist and Medical Director, The Prostate Centre
Dr Simon Chowdhury
Consultant Oncologist
Sarah Coghlan
Movember Foundation, UK Country Director
Sandy Tyndale-Biscoe
Chairman, Tackle prostate cancer
Dr Carol Cooper
GP and Honorary Tutor at Imperial College School of Medicine.
Keith Cass MBE
The Red Sock Campaign

Dr Beeching’s regret

SIR – I remember watching a televised interview with Dr Beeching, broadcast shortly before he died in 1985. When asked if he had any regrets over his programme of rail closures, he replied that he had just one: that he had not been able to close the East Coast line north of Newcastle upon Tyne, there being a perfectly good route into and out of Scotland via Glasgow.

Alan Hughes
Cornhill on Tweed, Northumberland

A barbarous practice

SIR – In answer to Andrew C McWilliam’s query as to whether ladies have a view on beards, I am happy to give mine.

Beards are merely repositories for saliva and dribbled food particles, and moustaches perform a similar function for nasal mucus.

Mary Kennedy
London N10


SIR – Martin Rogerssays the proper place for social activities is not in church, but in the church hall.

We have two splendid medieval churches and two small, plain church halls. Dwindling congregations mean that the churches are used by fewer and fewer people for worship and the parish struggles to maintain its property.

A recent bequest has allowed the installation of modern facilities into the churches. Now both can be successfully used for events, some based on religion, many not, which hundreds of people attend.

Mr Rogers can still worship in these buildings, but only for as long as secular activities keep them afloat.

Michael Plumbe
Hastings, East Sussex

SIR – While churches are places for worship and prayer, they have each been built and maintained by their local communities, in some cases over many centuries. They belong to their community, not just the current congregation, and it is reasonable to expect that they are put to as much community use as is practical.

That way we can all, religious or otherwise, contribute to their upkeep and enjoy their amenity. Churches that do this set a good example to those yet to embrace all of their neighbours.

Graham R Brown
Ampthill, Bedfordshire

SIR – We don’t have a church hall or a village hall. Where does Martin Rogers suggest we hold our social activities?

Hamish Hunter
Bisham, Berkshire

SIR – Pews or chairs, robes or no robes, women bishops or no women bishops – the divisions in the Church of England go on and on. Has the Church forgotten Jesus’s primary instruction to go out and spread the Word?

Sitting, standing or lying down, jeans or copes, albs and mitres, male or female, internet, radio or television – it matters not a jot.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

SIR – Not only is the removal of pews to the detriment of prayer in churches, but unfortunately, to the concept of silence.

Chatter is totally out of place before a service and belongs in the church hall. To pray in church is now an ordeal.

Pamela Ames-McGrath
Bath, Somerset


SIR – Christopher Booker pointed out that conforming to European Union directives has led to the recent flooding in the Somerset Levels and elsewhere.

Britain, as a crowded island set in the path of winter Atlantic storms, is in a unique situation compared with other EU countries.

We should be able to devise our own approaches to housing our burgeoning population, producing our own food and maintaining our biodiversity without being shackled by directives that apply to less crowded countries.

Roger Hull
Child Okeford, Dorset

SIR – If, as Christopher Booker alleges, the floods in England are being caused by the application of EU policy it is difficult to understand why the Netherlands, Flanders and Denmark are not permanently under water.

Can it really be Mr Booker’s contention that EU rules on drainage are being followed in this country but ignored everywhere else?

Ian Stevens
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

SIR – Christopher Booker’s assertion that the Environment Agency, at the behest of the European Union, has been “putting the interests of ‘biodiversity’, ‘sustainability’ and wildlife habitats above those of farmers and people” is ludicrous. Not since Chairman Mao’s “War on Nature” has any Government really believed those interests to be divergent.

The Environment Agency is there to protect the environment on which we depend utterly, for our food, water, fresh air, and indeed, for flood prevention.

Absurd EU subsidies for uneconomic hill-farming have left our uplands lifeless, denuded and unable to absorb heavy rainfall. Our flood plains are no longer allowed to fulfil their intrinsic purpose, which is to hold temporary overflows from our rivers.

We need more habitats, not fewer, if we are to avert the kind of floods we have seen this year.

Ben Goldsmith
Chair, Conservative Environment Network
London W1

SIR – Earlier this week, Lord Smith made his partially correct assertion that people who bought homes in flood plains needed to think about the risk. However, they would not need to consider the risk if the houses had not been built there in the first place.

To this end, the planning authorities must shoulder a great deal of responsibility for allowing unsuitable developments in unsuitable places. The Government is planning to build even more houses in the overcrowded South East. The wisdom of constructing more homes and increasing the density of housing where naturally occurring events are impossible to manage must be reviewed.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

SIR – We all feel sorry for the victims of the floods. But if a resident knows that his property has a propensity to flood, surely it makes sense for him to equip himself with sand bags instead of waiting for disaster to strike and then complaining to the council for not providing them.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – Those who attempt to link current extreme natural weather events to anthropogenic climate change seem to ignore the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This clearly states there is no scientific evidence for any increase in magnitude or frequency of hydro-meteorological events over the past century.

We are exhorted by the Prince of Wales and the Meteorological Office’s chief scientist to respect the judgment of climate science when it comes to attributing the slow warming of the late 20th century to human activity, yet we are clearly expected to ignore the science when its conclusions does not suit an alarmist agenda.

People in responsible positions should not confuse propaganda with scientific truth.

Eric Huxter
Ashtead, Surrey



Irish Times:



Sir, – Dr Eluned Lawlor (February 3rd) reported that our Minister for Health does not believe that granting under-sixes medical cards will cause a significant increase in workload.

Obviously he is not aware of two of the most recent studies on the subject. One, published by the ESRI, looks at the increase in private patients’ attendance rates when they are granted a medical card. The other was a cross-sectional audit of general practice records nationwide, published by the Irish Medical Journal . It highlights the higher adult visiting rates of those with GP visit card, full medical card and discretionary medical card when compared with private patients. Both predict a change in GP attendance rate associated with acquiring a GP Visit Card of 1.5 to two extra visits per year in the adult population.

A more recent audit of the same practices involved in the IMJ paper show an extra attendance in under-sixes GP Visit Card patients compared to private patients of 2.5 visits per annum. Full medical card patients in that age category attend four times more per annum. Those figures do not include the increased workload associated with the proposed mandatory adoption of the internationally discredited policy of offering annual health checks to all children. It should be noted that such a policy is proven to contribute to health inequalities via the inverse care law. Those who have the highest healthcare needs benefit least from universal programmes as their health requirements need to be specifically targeted.

Should Irish healthcare policy be based on reliable data or should it be purely politics driven? – Yours, etc,


General Practitioner,

Cromwellsfort Road,


Sir, – I wish to support Grainne Mason’s case (February 6th)for entitling adult adopted people to have access to information from their adoption files regarding identity and background.

When I worked in a psychiatric hospital some 20 years ago among my clients were birthmothers and adopted adults whose health had suffered due to the legal lack of access to information. Most importantly they had a long-standing unmet emotional need to know what happened their birth families, or painfully relinquished babies. Some progressive adoption agencies were active in mediating reunion searches, but others were working on outdated policies complying with the original one-sided contracts at the time of adoption, despite changes in social values since. In a few cases a shortage of staff in the health boards placed adoption searches at the end of a long list of priorities. To me it seemed the ultimate experience of disempowerment to be denied access to the basic human right to personal and medical history – knowing that your file lay in an impersonal office somewhere.

It seems unjust that help with information should depend which agency was originally used. It was my privilege to have helped those clients through the barriers by mediating on their behalf and I shared the profound impact of resolution when reunions took place.

Regarding the concern that some birthmothers might fear contact in later life: this fear could be faced by using third-party mediation which would allow Ms Mason’s proposal of privacy with openness, to respect the rights of both birthmothers and adult adopted people. In Iater life it can be more beneficial to resolve unfinished business than to avoid it, and to find that any residual shame from an earlier era can be healed by a different society.

I feel it is time for the rights of adopted people to be respected as a matter of entitlement, nearly 40 years after they were granted in the UK. – Yours, etc,


Glenomena Park,


Co Dublin.



Sir, – Your Editorial (February 13th) fairly summarises the complex situation surrounding Ireland’s controversial low rate of corporation tax. Your leader ends with the words “further and bolder steps are needed”.

Most companies in Ireland are taxed at the standard rate of 12.5 per cent, but international funds in the IFSC enjoy a zero rate of corporation tax plus a zero rate of capital gains tax. Another distinction is that Irish companies are taxed at 25 per cent on passive income.

No distinction is made between companies that create direct employment and special purpose companies which create no direct employment. There are many such SPCs registered in Ireland.

So one “bolder step” the Department of Finance might consider is to increase the headline rate of corporation tax to, say, 20 per cent, but give a tax credit for PAYE remitted to the Revenue. This would be very easy to administer and would give added encouragement to truly employment creating projects and discourage companies creating little or no direct employment.

Indeed, as the international pressure grows on Ireland to increase its headline rate of corporation tax this simple measure could be a useful defence before other countries take retaliatory action in unrelated fields such as agriculture and fishing rights. – Yours, etc,


Waltham Terrace,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.


Sir, – “Who runs Ireland?” (Weekend Review, February 8th). As long as I have a vote, I do! – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Dr Patricia Eadie’s argument (Letters, January 31st) that only plastic surgeons are qualified to perform aesthetic procedures is outdated and not reflective of the dynamic nature of aesthetic medicine which is driven by new technologies and exciting advances in aesthetic procedures pioneered by dermatologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, ophthalmologists, otolaryngologists, plastic surgeons, general surgeons, gynaecologists as well as doctors from other fields.

In an unregulated market where leading edge aesthetic treatments and procedures have become more accessible, patients considering any aesthetic procedure should inform themselves about the level of experience, training and expertise that their chosen practitioner has in carrying out the procedure, rather than focusing solely on their qualification. – Yours, etc,



European College of

Aesthetic Medicine

and Surgery,


Sir, – I disagree with Prof David Farrell’s view (Opinion, February 7th) as to the merit of reforming Seanad Éireann in the wake of the electorate’s rejection of the Government’s initiative to abolish it.

First, I fail to see how the reformed Seanad proposed by the Democracy Matters organisation and others would have “a membership closely mirroring the lower house”. Prof Farrell is right, of course, that the political parties would have their own candidates seeking seats in the Seanad. But a Seanad elected by the broad citizenry, I strongly suggest, would comprise a quite different membership than a Dáil whose members are elected by constituencies. As such, I do not accept that it necessarily would be similarly “dominated by the political parties.” Furthermore, a reformed Seanad would have equal numbers of women and men. It will be some time before gender equity is realised in the lower house.

Second, Prof Farrell cites the position of other European Union member states as a significant factor in his analysis that Ireland may not be “so special that it should need a directly elected upper house.” I don’t think it’s much less apposite to reference the position of US states in this regard: Rhode Island, 1.05 million people, two houses; Montana, one million people, two houses; North Dakota, 700,000 people, two houses; Wyoming, 580,000 people, two houses. I could continue. And all their citizens have a vote for both houses.

Third, Prof Farrell states that the upper house would have “few if any powers”. Adding another level of scrutiny to that which comes from Europe and to Government appointments are just two of the important tasks that a more deliberative Seanad could assume heightened responsibility for. While these are perhaps less glamorous undertakings, the Seanad could add real value to Irish democracy in the process.

Fourth, the issue of costs is to the fore of Prof Farrell’s argument. But as he acknowledges, “democracy is never cheap”. It is not cheap to post ballots, nor would it be cheap to facilitate the participation of our emigrants in Seanad elections as reformers advocate. Yet it is the right thing to do, and costs (which the Government can certainly work to minimise) mustn’t deter us from the pursuit of a more perfect democracy.

During the Seanad referendum campaign, one allegation our opponents made about those of us who recognised the potential of a reformed Seanad was that we were “dreamers”. I think it’s good to dream of a system of politics and government that doesn’t merely function, but flourishes. I believe a reformed, renewed Seanad Éireann would be a big step in that direction. – Yours, etc,


School of Law,

NUI Galway.



A chara, – On behalf of the INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group, I wish to commend Patsy McGarry for his article which highlights the injustice of Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act; an exemption essentially gives religious institutions a State-sanctioned licence to discriminate (“Ireland is continuing to fail its gay teachers in the classroom”, Home News, February 11th).

Section 37.1 allows such employers to take unspecified “action” against those who “undermine its religious ethos”. This very broad statement gives no explanation as to what constitutes undermining an institution’s ethos. The lack of clarity leads to the quiet fear held by many of the teachers in the denominational schools which make up 93 per cent of our education system: “Can they discriminate against me just for being gay?”

Well, can they? It remains to be seen exactly how far such discrimination could be taken, as there hasn’t yet been a test case with regard to discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. However, the vagueness of the language in the section could certainly be open to interpretation.

A Bill is languishing in the legislative system which would amend Section 37.1 to more adequately define what constitutes the undermining of ethos. The INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group does not recommend amendment of Section 37.1, we are campaigning for its deletion. Even in its amended form, it means, as Senator Katherine Zappone stated: “the protection of religious ethos can extend beyond the ground of religion into an employee’s private life and is not confined to what she or he says or does in the workplace”.

Do denominational schools have a right to insist employees adhere to their particular ethos or philosophy? Absolutely. Section 16 of the Equality Act already specifies an employer may insist an employee carry out the duties required of them. Do they or should they, as an institution in receipt of State funds, have a broad and vaguely defined right to judge an employee based on their sexuality? Absolutely not.

The fear Section 37.1 engenders in many LGBT teachers prevents them from fully participating in their school communities. It compels them to keep details of their personal lives secret from colleagues. It prevents them exercising their employment rights in relation to their partnerships.

Our schools are special places in which individuality, diversity and self-respect are supposed to be nurtured and protected. A school is as much a community and a family as it is a workplace and it requires strong collegial relationships and friendships in order to operate effectively.

Section 37.1 is responsible for creating a climate of fear and discrimination in our schools. Rather than protecting a school’s ethos, the silencing and closeting of LGBT teachers undermines the job a school is supposed to do. Section 37.1 needs to go. – Yours, etc,


INTO LGBT Teachers’


Irish National Teachers’


Parnell Square,

Dublin 1.


Sir, – There are lies, damn lies and there is selective quotation. Vincent Browne did not quote the Taoiseach in full when he cited Enda Kenny’s vision for Ireland as being the best country in the world in which to do business (Opinion, February 11th). The full quotation from Mr Kenny’s speech to the 2013 MacGill summer school is: “. . . the best small country in the world in which to do business, to raise a family and to grow old with dignity and respect”. One may agree or disagree with this vision, but is shows a concern relating to far more than the economy.

Granted Mr Kenny’s vision may not have people leaping to the barricades, but it is vision which, if delivered, would be no mean achievement, and would certainly create a better country than the one we now live in.

I would not underestimate the difficulty for anyone of articulating a vision for Irish society which captures the imagination of the Irish people. It is not merely a question of rhetoric, though language matters, but of finding the ties which can bind in solidarity a pluralist society.

At least Mr Kenny has put forth a vision; it is for others to put their visions before the people and let them decide which they will espouse. – Yours, etc,


Kings Avenue,

Ballybough Dublin 3.



Sir, – I see with a certain amount of amusement and irony that Philomena Poole has been appointed Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Manager (Breaking News, February 13th). I hope Phil now lives up to her name and helps to fill the pools in her local baths. And more. – Yours, etc,


Foxrock Avenue, Dublin 18.


Sir, – Surely a few days and not a week is a long and changeable time in Ireland’s politics and weather – on Tuesday it seemed that a confident Minister for Justice was denying an approaching hurricane, By Wednesday a low pressure system was dampening public confidence in the Minister’s ability to read the forecast and by Thursday evening’s clean-up operation the Minister was seen to be already hanging the GSOC chair out to dry! – Yours, etc,



Letterkenny PO,

Co Donegal.

Sir, – How positively sick-making is this grandstanding by the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions in asking that the British company, that carried out the security sweep for GSOC should give the committee an unredacted copy of its final report. The committee well knows that confidentiality is an integral part of the relationship between a security company and its client and that there is no question of it being given this report. – Yours, etc,



Waterfall, Near Cork.

Sir, – The recent controversy regarding the Garda Ombudsman bugging has left me with this question, “Am I living in a police state?” – Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – It disturbs me that our Government seems determined to distract everyone’s attention away from the core issue of whether or not GSOC was under possible surveillance and if it was, identifying who is responsible for this sinister crime? Possibly our friends in the United States can lend us some of their highly skilled CIA agents to solve this mystery for us? – Is mise,


Maxwell Road,

Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Ponder if you will why the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has not been rendered into Irish as many Government agencies are: who could forget Comisiún Muc agus Bágún? GSOC would become COGS – Comisiún Ombudsman Garda Síochána. Could we then say there are “wheels within wheels” in this whole affair? – Yours, etc,


The Park,

Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Sir, – First the Taoiseach stated the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was required to inform Minister for Justice Alan Shatter of exceptional or grave matters, quoting Section 80(5) of the Garda Siochána Act 2005. This of course was wrong. The section merely entitled the GSOC to make a report to the Minister. I think Enda Kenny, the longest serving member of the legislature is well aware of the difference between “may” and “shall”. Rather than apologise for the continual use of this untruth the Taoiseach when finally called to task gave us the flapdoodle “Any excessive meaning attributed to my words is regretted”.

Then on RTÉ Prime Time , February 13th, Mr Shatter tried a different tack. He told us that under Section 103 of the same Act the GSOC “where they invoke their powers under a previous section of the Act and conduct the type of investigation they did conduct” had an “express obligation” to inform him “and unfortunately that obligation wasn’t complied with”. Yet, the Minister failed to inform us that under Section 103(2)(c) the obligation does not extend to reporting matters that in the opinion of GSOC would not be in the public interest.

We deserve better from our Taoiseach and Minister in the face of a serious crisis. – Yours, etc,


Rathdown Park,

Greystones, Co Wicklow.




Irish Independent:

* Ian O’Doherty suggests that the LGBT Community, or “they” as we are referred to, have scored an own goal in our vociferous defence of Rory O’Neill. I can only sit back and smile at his lack of comprehension of the overall debate.

Also in this section

Lyric’s meagre Irish playlist

Sexes have same heart

Degree of practicality needed for our students

He may not have enjoyed the speech at the Abbey, but he also clearly doesn’t understand it either. I agree that feeling different, hating oneself or “angst” can be a normal part of growing up or adolescence. The difference here is that many grown men and women are still feeling that same sense of self-loathing because of the skewed, biased and misinformed argument those in the “green corner” passive aggressively pontificate to Irish people. Like it or not, homophobia is a massive part of the marriage equality debate and it is a debate that nobody on either side wants to silence. I actively encourage people on both sides to make and consider their arguments but also to respect their right to be challenged.

Finally, it’s okay to not like the speech. I don’t like Ian’s article, but we both get to express our opinion. Martin Luther King gave a voice to a segment of American society who struggled to be heard above the terrible reality of segregation in the southern states of America. Rory O’Neill has given a voice to the thousands of Irish gay people who do not have the same platform or are afraid to use it because that is the crux of this whole issue, fear.

For the green corner, fear of change and progression.

For the pink corner, fear of oppression, regression and being forever treated as an unequal citizen. For the neutral corner, it’s the fear of not knowing who is right and who is wrong but as long as either side is ridiculed or silenced by law or censorship, that fear is the reality.




* Yet another article on the growing childhood obesity crisis in this country, by Ailin Quinlan in ‘Health & Living’ last Monday but, reading between the lines, I think we’ve cracked it!

Dr Sinead Murphy’s most simple explanation of childhood obesity as a combination of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and the intake of excessive calories by children holds the key, when considered alongside Dr Declan Cody’s reminder of the staggering fact that a quarter of Irish children at four years of age are overweight or obese starting school. It is therefore this under-four age group that needs to be targeted.

The question must be asked: what role have infant processed foods and formulas played in children’s daily schedules from birth?

If, as Dr Murphy says, “the slide into childhood obesity can be stopped by adopting a healthy diet”, then the odds are breastfeeding is a good start.




* Simon O’Connor is right when he says that there is an “increasing number of poor and homeless in Ireland” due to the recession and he is also right when he points to some of the EU’s faults and failings as contributing to that (Letters, February 15).

He is not right, however, when he implies that the EU is to blame for all the ills of this country. Neither is he right when he says that we should not compare “the devastations of the past” with the present “relative prosperity and democratic rule”.

Most members of the EU did not go broke. This country did. Responsibility for that rests with a small number of this country’s most powerful decision makers during the boom.




* With the local elections soon to be upon us, there is now talk of tax cuts and that the final price we will be forced to pay for water “may” be known before the elections occur.

As usual these scraps will be thrown from the politicians’ table to the little people to sway voters. Remember such lines as Leo Varadkar’s that “not another red cent would be paid to the banks” and “Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way”.

Let the people now talk with their votes. If these costs and cuts are not fully explained to the people before the elections I would urge them to vote for any candidate other than a government party candidate.




* The recent furore resulting from ‘The Saturday Night Show’ on RTE is a kind of liberal re-run of the ‘Playboy of the Western World’ Abbey Theatre riots. Contrary to what some commentators have argued, in my opinion the payments made to John Waters, David Quinn and others represent a two-fold victory for freedom of speech.

The focus of the controversy was the issue of same-sex marriage. There has been an unseemly circling of the wagons by the establishment in an attempt to effectively close all debate on the subject and to demonise those who dare to dissent on the issue.

One of the major weapons in this regard is to throw around the ‘homophobic’ mantra at opponents, rather than engage in debate. The taxpayer-funded broadcaster RTE, which has an absolute duty to journalistic impartiality (unlike an independent newspaper, which may take a particular line – although that’s hardly journalistically ethical either), has an imperative to be extra careful in such debates.




* There have been suggestions coming from government circles recently to reward middle-income earners with an income tax reduction for their sacrifices since the downturn. The idea on the surface seems great if you are in the fortunate position of being in permanent secure employment.

However, if, like me, you lost your job from the private sector in 2009 and have since had temporary periods of work, how therefore will I reap these tax benefits if I find myself unemployed once again as this is currently the trend in the private sector and will be for some time to come.

It appears to me that this income tax proposal is being used as a way to give a pay increase to certain sections within the public sector. Perhaps the Government would be wise to give this more careful consideration before any final decision is taken.




* Your Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham’s aspirations to stop smoking in cars are commendable. On his methods, however, “blitz of massive fines, possibly bans, etc”, from my own experience, I would beg to differ.

Thirty-five years ago, the family were on a summer outing to the seaside. I was sitting in the back seat, lazing off having my smoke, while the child in the carrycot finished his bottle. Gazing up at the roof of the car I suddenly became a little perturbed at the faded cream colour.

“Surely that was bright cream originally,” I thought! By coincidence, I also had a slight touch of a cough that day and sums added up quickly.

From that day on I never lit a cigarette when anybody was in a car with me. About six months later, after a continuous inner battle, I caught the bull by the horns and quit smoking of all kinds ever since.

No law enforcement will end smoking in cars, until the person clearly realises the hazard, grasps the nettle and has a true desire to stop smoking.





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